Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

The Title

I finally paid off my car.  I think it was a five-year loan, and I got it in September of 2007, so I made good time on it.  That means other than the house, I’m completely out of debt now, which I think is a first for me since maybe I was 18.    But if you include the house, I am in debt orders of magnitude more than I ever have been.  And even if I could swing double or triple payments, it would be decades before I was back in the black.  But it will be nice to have that huge mortgage deduction on my tax form this year.

Anyway, I got a car title in the mail yesterday, since the loan company had been hanging onto it while I was still in hock with them.  I have not had a car where I actually held the title since ’99, when I had my second Rabbit in Seattle.  I don’t know why I find this piece of certified paper so fascinating, but I do.  Maybe it’s because it’s from Colorado, so it’s sort of a magical time thread back to when I lived there.  Or maybe it’s because it’s a signifier that I don’t have a monthly payment to The Man anymore.  And oddly enough, the date the title was accepted at the DMV is the day I got married, which is weird.

It’s slightly sad that the lien amount is something like $17,000 and I would now be lucky to get ten K out of the car.  And now that it’s paid off, and now that I listen to Car Cast all the time, I am constantly wondering if I should turn around and buy another car.  The timing is now bad for that, and I also lament that buying pretty much any car is an issue gas-wise.  With the Yaris, I average about 40 MPG, which means I go through a ten-gallon tank of gas a week.  If I bought just about any other car, I would take a hit in that stat.  I think the new Prius does maybe 10 MPG better than that.  The new Insight is rumored to get to the 60-some MPG range if you’re a careful driver.  I’m currently getting over the EPA estimate for the Yaris, because I have a ScanGauge, watch it obsessively, and have been learning little tricks to lower my fuel consumption.  But spending another ten grand to save about ten bucks of gas a week is not a mind-blowing investment.

I have to admit I want a really fun car.  I spend at least two hours a day in my car, so it would be nice to have a really overwhelmingly nice cockpit to spend my commute in.  And I’m not a fan of big huge cars, or SUV type cars.  Like, I would love to get a Porsche Boxster.  Yes, it’s impractical, I would probably get carjacked, I would be paranoid about scratches, my insurance would be insane, and a ~$50,000 sticker price is not good.  And of course, 25 MPG, but probably closer to 15 or 20 once that right foot grows heavy.

Another car I would like is the BMW 335D diesel.  It’s got the incredible bavarian interior, screaming power, and still gets pretty close to the Yaris mileage.  (I saw a review that stated it’s possible to get Yaris-like mileage when driving at 100 MPH on the Autobahn…)  But it’s a $50K car.  The cheapo route there would be to get the VW Jetta TDI, which is more like $17K and is peppy but probably gets better mileage than my Toyota.  I think almost any car would have a more comfortable interior than the Yaris, although it’s not bad for my daily commute.

The reality is, I think I need to run this car into the ground and tally as many miles as I can on this until I get a new one.  It’s a decent drive, it’s economical, and if I’m going to do 15,000 miles of depreciation to a car a year, it’s probably better to do it on a subcompact than on a $50K sports car.

Speaking of, I need to go do battle with the 880 now.  At least it’s Friday morning, usually the lightest day of my commute.  And soon, school will be out, and the roads will clear up a bit more.